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2020-03-24 10:47:39 UTC
2020-03-24 11:45:06 UTC
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Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea by crossing the military line that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953. In a moment rich with symbolism and pomp, South Korean leader Moon Jae-in and Mr Kim shook hands at the border. Mr Kim said he hoped for "frank" discussion in a warm opening exchange.
Just months ago North Korean rhetoric was warlike, but now they may discuss a peace treaty and nuclear weapons. Much of what the summit will focus on has been agreed in advance, but many analysts remain deeply sceptical about the North's apparent enthusiasm for engagement.
During their private meeting, Kim told Moon he came to the summit to end the history of conflict and joked he was sorry for keeping Moon up with his late night missile tests, a South Korean official said.
North Korea's nuclear test site has collapsed after the region sustained damage from five nuclear blast trials, Chinese scientists said Wednesday — leading many to believe it may be the reason why Kim Jong Un suddenly announced the rogue regime would freeze its nuclear and missile tests.
President Rouhani warns that White House failure to uphold Iran nuclear deal would prompt firm reaction from Tehran.
In a televised speech, Rouhani said the "Iranian government will react firmly" if the White House fails to "live up to their commitments" under the agreement.
The warning comes weeks in advance of a May 12 deadline for Trump to renew the deal.
The US president has previously said he would scrap the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which he has called the "worst deal in history", unless "a better option" is presented to him.
[...] The landmark deal reached in Lausanne, Switzerland in April 2015 with China, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany and the US offered Iran more than $110bn a year in sanctions relief and a return to the global economy in exchange for halting its drive for a nuclear weapon.
After a number of high-profile crimes that sparked outrage and protests, India will allow the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls under the age of 12:
The executive order was cleared at a special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It allows capital punishment for anyone convicted of raping children under the age of 12. Minimum prison sentences for rape against girls under the age of 16 and women have also been raised.
According to Reuters, which has seen a copy of the order, there was no mention of boys or men.
Two recent rape cases have shocked the nation. Protests erupted earlier this month after police released horrific details of the rape of an eight-year-old Muslim girl by Hindu men in Kathua, in Indian-administered Kashmir in January. Anger has also been mounting after a member of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was accused last week over the rape of a 16-year-old girl in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
India's poor record of dealing with sexual violence came to the fore after the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus. This led to huge protests and changes to the country's rape laws. But sexual attacks against women and children have since continued to be reported across the country.
Some activists have criticized the application of the death penalty, saying it will deter reporting, especially given that almost all perpetrators are family members or acquaintances.
Oklahoma Representative James Bridenstine, a Navy Reserve pilot, was confirmed as NASA's 13th administrator on Thursday.
In a 50-49 vote Thursday, Oklahoma Representative James Bridenstine, a Navy Reserve pilot, was confirmed as NASA's 13th administrator, an agency that usually is kept away from partisanship. His three predecessors — two nominated by Republicans — were all approved unanimously. Before that, one NASA chief served under three presidents, two Republicans and a Democrat.
The two days of voting were as tense as a launch countdown.
A procedural vote Wednesday initially ended in a 49-49 tie — Vice President Mike Pence, who normally breaks a tie, was at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida — before Arizona Republican Jeff Flake switched from opposition to support, using his vote as leverage to address an unrelated issue.
Thursday's vote included the drama of another delayed but approving vote by Flake, a last-minute no vote by Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth — who wheeled onto the floor with her 10-day-old baby in tow — and the possibility of a tie-breaker by Pence, who was back in town.
Common Dreams reports
Election reform advocates on [April 18] praised a decision by Maine's Supreme Court, upholding the use of ranked-choice voting for the state's upcoming primary elections, saying the ruling demonstrated that the court heeded the demands of Maine voters.
[...]Unlike in traditional voting, in which the candidate with the largest share of votes wins--even if he or she is far from capturing a majority of the support--in ranked choice voting, voters rank each candidate in order of preference. If no candidate has a majority after the first count, the least-popular contender is eliminated, voters' ballots are added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots are recounted. The eliminations and recounts continue until one candidate has a majority.
Supporters of the system say it increases voter turnout and proportional representation.
Maine's June 12 multi-party primary elections, in which voters will choose candidates for governor and congressional districts, will now make history as the first state election to use ranked-choice voting.
Fifty-two percent of Maine voters supported the system in a November 2016 ballot initiative, but lawmakers passed a bill last year delaying its implementation until December 2021 and argued that the state could not use a new voting system without direction from the legislature. The state Senate also threatened to repeal ranked-choice voting altogether if it could not pass a constitutional amendment by then.
More than 77,000 Maine residents signed a petition saying any repeal of the system by the legislature should be voided.
"The Maine legislature has changed or repealed all four of the initiatives passed by Maine voters in 2016", said Kyle Bailey of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in a statement on Tuesday. "Today's decision by the Maine Supreme Court confirms that the Maine people are sovereign and have the final say."
The Portland Press Herald, Maine's largest circulation daily newspaper, has extensive background details in their April 17th story: Ranked-choice voting will be used for June primaries, Maine supreme court rules.
Emmanuel Macron has outlined his vision for the future of the European Union in Strasbourg. The 40-year-old, who secured the French Presidency in May on a pro-EU platform amid a populist surge in the bloc, delivered his highly anticipated speech to over 700 MEPs in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
Macron challenged "inward-looking nationalist selfishness" amid populist sentiment in the bloc and pushed for a more united and reinvigorated Europe. "Nationalism will lead Europe into the abyss. We see authoritarianism rising all around us," he said. "The response should not be authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy."
Macron also sought to tackle the "poisoned debate" on migration, proposing the creation of a European programme that could subsidise local authorities which host and integrate refugees.
In a speech which touched on a range of issues, Macron recommended that copyright law be tightened to protect artists' "genius" and reiterated his support for tougher environmental legislation.
Meanwhile, Macron wants to "reform" Islam:
Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on "underground Islamism" and those who "indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily." The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to change Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also preventing radicalization.
He has said that in the coming months he will announce "a blueprint for the whole organization" of Islam. And those trying to anticipate what that will look like are turning their attention to Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture.
It's hard to miss that the man who appears to have Macron's ear on this most sensitive of subjects cuts a similar figure. Like the president, El Karoui is an ex-Rothschild investment banker with an elite social pedigree who favors well-tailored suits, crisp white shirts and the lofty province of big ideas. The latest of those ideas is this: that the best way to integrate Islam within French society is to promote a version of the religion "practiced in peace by believers who will not have the need to loudly proclaim their faith."
Also at BBC.
On the Daily Dot:
The Facebook pages of Richard Spencer, the alt-right leader who was famously punched in the face last year, have been suspended.
The pages for the National Policy Institute, a lobbying group of sorts for white nationalists, and Spencer's online magazine "altright.com," vanished on Friday after Vice sent the social network an inquiry about hate groups. They had a combined following of almost 15,000 followers.
The action was taken just days after Mark Zuckerberg emphasized during his testimony before Congress that Facebook does not allow hate speech. But it wasn't until Vice flagged the accounts that Facebook suspended them. The social network said in a statement that it identifies violating pages using human monitors, algorithms, and partnerships with organizations.
A California technology billionaire said on Thursday that his longtime and perhaps quixotic effort to partition the Golden State into multiple new states could soon be put before voters.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper said he had gathered about 600,000 signatures on a petition to put his proposal to divide California on the November ballot, more than the 366,000 needed to qualify. It is his third attempt to get voters to weigh in on his call to break up the most populous U.S. state.
Draper, who in 2014 and 2016 failed in his efforts to win approval for a ballot initiative to divide the state into six parts, said in a news release Thursday that he planned to file the signatures with election officials next week.
[...] To go into effect, California would first have to certify the signatures that Draper has gathered, and then voters in November would need to pass the measure. After that, the U.S. Congress would have to approve it.
"I don't know Mr. Libby," Trump said in a statement, "but for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life."
President Trump plans to pardon I. Lewis Libby Jr., who as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted of perjury in connection with the leak of a C.I.A. officer's identity, a person familiar with the decision said on Thursday.
Mr. Libby's case has long been a cause for conservatives who maintained that he was a victim of a special prosecutor run amok, an argument that may have resonated with the president. Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained that the special counsel investigation into possible cooperation between his campaign and Russia in 2016 has gone too far and amounts to an unfair "witch hunt."
Mr. Libby, who goes by Scooter, was convicted of four felonies in 2007 for perjury before a grand jury, lying to F.B.I. investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. officer. President George W. Bush commuted Mr. Libby's 30-month prison sentence but refused to grant him a full pardon despite the strenuous requests of Mr. Cheney, a decision that soured the relationship between the two men.
A pardon of Mr. Libby would paradoxically put Mr. Trump in the position of absolving one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, which Mr. Trump has denounced as a catastrophic miscalculation. It would also mean he was forgiving a former official who was convicted in a case involving leaks despite Mr. Trump's repeated inveighing against those who disclose information to reporters.
Critics of Mr. Trump quickly interpreted the prospective pardon as a signal by the president that he would protect those who refuse to turn on their bosses, as Mr. Libby was presumed not to have betrayed Mr. Cheney. Mr. Trump has not ruled out pardons in the Russia investigation.
Is this President Trump's "Chelsea Manning moment"?
Many media outlets are saying "Paul Ryan Retires" (For example, Vox's original headline.) This doesn't mean he won't still be there until the new Congress is seated in January 2019.
More and more Republicans are looking at how the 2018 elections are shaping up and deciding they want no part of them--with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) just the latest to announce they won't run for reelection this year.
This makes 25 House Republicans and three GOP senators who are calling it quits, not counting several more who are stepping down to run for another political office (or who have already resigned). That's the highest such number for just one party in decades.
Revealingly, only nine House Democrats and zero Democratic senators have so far made the same choice. (Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota resigned due to scandal, but his seat has already been filled by Tina Smith, who will run this fall.) That's a dramatic discrepancy.
Though the explanations offered for these decisions differ, and though many of these GOP-held seats are in no real danger of flipping to Democrats, these retirements are revealing how members of Congress currently view the national political environment. That is: they think there's a real possibility of a Democratic wave.
But the trend is more meaningful even than that. These very retirements could help make such a wave even bigger, because it's generally easier for the opposition party to flip open seats than it is to knock off incumbents.
[...] According to FiveThirtyEight's numbers, the only time in the past 40 years there's been a bigger partisan discrepancy in [the who's not running for reelection stats] was 2008, which turned out to be a Democratic wave year.